In March 2016, ZTE Corporation and ZTE Kangxun (collectively ZTE) were placed on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Entity List after corporate documents revealed alleged failure to comply with U.S. sanctions against Iran. While placement on the Entity List would ordinarily result in a ban on conducting business with the U.S., President Obama issued a Temporary General License (TGL) on March 24, 2016, which authorizes the export, reexport and transfer (in country) of items to ZTE. The TGL was implemented by amending the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) with the addition of Supplement No. 7 to part 744.
In the last few days of his Administration, President Obama and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (“OFAC”) took actions that, on at least a temporary basis, will authorize financial transactions with and most exports of goods and services to Sudan and the Sudanese Government. These actions take effect on Tuesday, January 17, but any U.S. persons seeking to trade with Sudan under the expanded authorizations should be aware that these new authorizations are subject to various conditions and could be revoked or modified based on future actions by the Government of Sudan and/or President-Elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration.
Following the recent release of a joint analysis report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Russian Malicious Cyber Activity and sanctions issued by the Obama Administration on December 29, 2016 (as previously reported here), the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has amended the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) by adding five (5) Russian entities to the Entity List. The entities identified below have been determined to have been involved in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States:
Yesterday, President Obama issued an amendment to Executive Order 13694 related to malicious cyber activities which imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies (the Federal Security Service and the Main Intelligence Directorate), four individual intelligence agency officers and three Russian vendors that provided cyber support to one of the sanctioned agencies. In an official statement, President Obama explained that the amendment was a response to “the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election.” The amendment also authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to sanction any additional individuals or entities determined to be engaged in “tampering with, altering, or causing a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions.” The nine individuals and entities named in the E.O. 13694 amendment are now listed on the list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (the “SDN list”) maintained by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”). This places a freeze on any property within the U.S. belonging to those individuals or entities and also prohibits persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction from engaging in trade with the sanctioned individuals and entities. Shortly thereafter, OFAC exercised its authority under a separate section of E.O. 13694 and added two Russian cyber criminals to the SDN list along with the nine individuals and entities named by President Obama (list found here).
On December 15, 2016, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) revised their Frequently Asked Questions Relating to the Lifting of Certain U.S. Sanctions Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), clarifying procedures related to the potential “snapback” of the JCPOA and the subsequent re-imposition of sanctions.
On September 14, 2016 the President issued a proclamation ending a U.S. government suspension issued in 1989 and restoring trade benefits to Burma, plus new trade benefits not previously granted, under the Generalized System of Preferences (“GSP”). The GSP is a duty reduction measure, which provides cost savings and applies to goods covered under thousands of individual tariff provisions. In short, the GSP permits duty-free entry for qualifying goods.
The restored benefits and new benefits for qualifying goods become effective November 13, 2016.
The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) recently announced additional rule amendments intended to continue improving relations between the United States and Cuba by allowing even greater commerce and humanitarian efforts between the two countries. These new OFAC and BIS rules take effect today. The new amendments build on previous amendments which Husch Blackwell LLP’s Technology Manufacturing & Transportation Industry Insider blog summarized here, here, and here.
On Tuesday, September 27, 2016, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade held a hearing on “Effective Enforcement of U.S. Trade Laws.” Trade Subcommittee members evaluated U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) efforts to comply with the provisions and deadlines outlined in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (PL 114-125). CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske briefed the Committee on the agency’s progress in meeting its legislative obligations.
Commissioner Kerlikowske acknowledged CBP’s delinquency on a number of statutory deadlines, but assured Committee members that the agency has been working diligently to fulfill its obligations. In addition to shifting staff priorities, the CBP Office of Trade collected all legal deadlines and triaged assignments to provide priority attention to the most urgent matters. Commissioner Kerlikowske concluded that the CBP was “well on the way” to implementing the majority of its requirements by the end of the calendar year.
On September 14, 2016, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) launched a new web page to engage American manufacturers who may benefit from the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB). The MTB supports manufacturers by eliminating or reducing import duties on hundreds of materials and products that are not produced domestically, cutting production costs and enhancing global competitiveness.
The American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016 (PL 114–159) established a new process for submitting MTB petitions, which traditionally required Members of Congress to introduce bills. Under the new system, likely beneficiaries will submit petitions directly to the USITC within a 60-day period, beginning October 14, 2016. Anticipated revenue loss for each product must be less than $500,000 per year.
For companies engaged in the international trade of goods or services, the decision of the United Kingdom to exit from the European Union, creates uncertainty on many levels. Laying aside political effects, such as potential reconsideration of Scotland’s 2014 decision to remain in the U.K. (Scotland having overwhelmingly voted to stay in the U.K. during the Brexit referendum), the legal issues stemming from the Brexit decision are almost too numerous to mention. But, for a U.S. company thinking through the implications of Brexit, resultant changes in treaty obligations, British law, and U.S. law are the major categories to monitor carefully.